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NY State Budget passed in same, old way…secretive

KW: It is funny, some of my colleagues were lobbying and sending press releases to ask the Governor and state leaders to do this and that. It seemed like empty work to me – begging the powerful for more money for one’s own pet projects. But, I couldn’t think of what the alternate position was. From what now just happened, I realize, probably the more important discussion to have had was that it all be done transparently. There are some odd decisions, taxes, and budget cuts. People who care about justice should probably have been proactive in demanding that the Governor and legislature hold public hearings, and follow the rule about publishing something for 3 days before passing it. With those rules followed, everything probably would have been more logical and fair…

(excerpt from) Buffalo News
Legislature closes state budget deficit for this year
By Tom Precious /Updated: 02/03/09 10:09 PM

Quote from Governor: “Every New Yorker is going to be asked to share this sacrifice. Some did today. We thank them and apologize we had to make these cuts. Others will also share as time goes on.”

ALBANY — Democrats running the state government agreed today behind closed doors to erase a $1.6 billion deficit for this year.

The plan will raise the costs for people with health insurance policies and raid hundreds of millions of dollars from various pots, including the state university system [SUNY tuition will rise] and what critics say is a low-cost hydropower program intended for upstate job-creation efforts.[KW: I am not greatly informed on the hydropower program, but it sounds a little like pork and spin to me, anyway.]

Actual spending cuts, however, are a relatively smaller component — just 23 percent, critics said — of the deficit reduction package. Instead, it is balanced in large part by tax hikes and creative sweeping of off-budget funds into the state’s general ledger.

The deal was pushed through with no public debate and passed by lawmakers tonight on an “emergency” basis to get around a legal three-day aging period for new bills.

In all, $716 million is being swept or transferred from off-budget accounts, such as authorities, a practice criticized as gimmicky by fiscal watchdogs…

Senate Republicans bashed the deal, saying it was crafted by three Democrats from New York City — Gov. David A. Paterson, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and [Malcolm A. Smith] — and that it unfairly targets upstate, “steals” money intended for college students and drives up the costs of upstate companies getting low-cost electricity from the Power for Jobs program…

The cuts are not across the board, and the spare, for instance, public schools, the second-largest portion of the budget, from any funding hits…

Taking one of the biggest hits is the insurance industry, especially health insurers, who say the costs being raised on them by Albany today will trickle down to policyholders in the form of even higher premiums…

“It’s going to act as a penalty for people who have health insurance,” said Leslie Moran, senior vice president of the New York Health Plan Association, which represents 25 managed care plans with seven million New York policyholders, including HealthNow in Western New York. Paterson said the insurers have reserve funds they can dip into. “They should not have to pass them on” to policyholders, the governor said.

Also…the New York Times has a fascinating piece about two-party rivalry and interaction which reveals the shallow attitude of our duopoly leaders: “You did it to us, now we will do it to you.” With neither side understanding (or at least acknowledging) that the public loses either way.

Creative Commons/by Monica's Dad/some rights reservedCreative Commons/by Monica's Dad/some rights reserved

Photo above:
Democrat Malcolm Smith v. Republican Dean Skelos

(photo by Monica’s Dad, collage by Kimberly Wilder)

(excerpt from) New York Times
New York Closes State Budget Gap, but Another Looms
By Nicholas Confessore / Published: February 3, 2009

ALBANY — With less than two months remaining in the state fiscal year, Gov. David A. Paterson and the leaders of the Legislature reached a long-delayed agreement on Tuesday to close the state’s $1.6 billion budget gap…

For advocates of government transparency, the deficit-closing deal was made in an all-too-familiar way. The legislation was written behind closed doors, hastily explained to rank-and-file lawmakers and unveiled before either the Senate or the Assembly had actually held any vote.

Republicans in the Senate, who lost control of the chamber in last fall’s elections, accused Senate Democrats of reneging on campaign pledges to produce legislation in the open and in consultation with members of both parties. “I would like to welcome all of you to the new and reformed Albany,” said Dean G. Skelos, the Senate minority leader.

Malcolm A. Smith, the majority leader, conceded that the process had not been ideal, but noted that Republicans had had little interest in including Democrats in legislative negotiations when they ran the Senate.

“Is Dean complaining about the way he used to treat me?” Mr. Smith asked. “Perhaps.”

2 Responses

  1. […] Sheldon Silver says NY State budget deal is reached… Update: Feb 4th. It passed. Story: here. […]

  2. […] Solving NY’s Budget Woes Update on 2009 NYS Budget: Feb. 4, 2009. It passed. Story: here. […]

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